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It’s almost tax day. A day most will hate. A few of us even go to great extremes to avoid it. With that fateful April day fast approaching in Malaysia (and other parts of the world), some of us might be thinking of getting away, perhaps to a place where the weather is fine – and the taxes are low. Whether you’re searching for a way to stash your cash, or just need a beautiful distraction in a foreign land, these ten tax havens are sure to keep your mind – and your money – away from the greedy old government.
1. Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands, a Caribbean outpost of the UK, is one of the world’s most well-known tax havens. Tight secrecy laws help protect companies from having to reveal their finances, and income tax, capital-gains tax, company tax, and inheritance tax don’t even exist. Individuals don’t need to own a place of business or qualify in any way for a Cayman Islands mortgage, making it a popular destination among yachting enthusiasts. If you don’t have a yacht registered to the island-nation, opt instead for a luxurious stay at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman. Located on Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach, the 375-room hotel offers unobstructed ocean views, an Eric Ripert restaurant, and a slew of outdoor activities branded by the famous ocean conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau.
Since it isn’t part of the European Union, Switzerland can better resist international pressures to change its laws. And while its fiscal secrecy standards have recently relaxed, the landlocked central European country remains one of the most popular destinations for hiding money. In 2015, the Swiss Bankers Association reported that banks in Switzerland held about US$6.5 trillion in assets, 51% of which originated from abroad. When hunting for a private banker to speak to, stay at the Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva a neoclassical landmark, and eat alfresco meals on its rooftop terrace while watching the sun set over the still-snowy Alps.
Bermuda is often associated with mysteriously disappearing ships, but it is also a popular destination for funds that need to do a disappearing act of their own. The country’s tax system puts tariffs on staff payrolls – but not on corporate earnings or investment income – making it popular for offshore transactions. The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club which recently wrapped up a nearly US$100 million renovation, is the best accommodation to hide out on the British territory. The 132-year-old pink hotel is the official host of the America’s Cup yacht race, and it offers its own full-service marina as well as a harbor-view restaurant by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson.
Home to one of the world’s largest yacht shows and one of the most prestigious Formula One races, Monaco is a storied playground for the rich and famous. However, some may argue that its best offering is its lack of income tax on residents (and residency permits are relatively easy to acquire, too). Non-residents, meanwhile, should stay at Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo, where belle-epoque architecture and contemporary Pierre-Yves Rochon interiors seamlessly channel the glitz and glamour of the infamous island. Enjoy fresh seafood at the Michelin-star restaurant and the massive Diamond Suite Penthouse which allows guests to sip Champagne on a private terrace overlooking the megayachts docked in Port Hercule.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms, first included Qatar in its paying taxes report in 2009, and by 2011, the Middle Eastern country was ranked as the world’s second easiest place to pay taxes. In 2010, Qatar also reduced its corporate income tax for foreign-owned businesses operating in the country. Our favourite way to visit the tax haven is with a tropical – albeit manmade – escape to the Arabian Gulf at Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara. Each of the resort’s 141 rooms and villas have an ocean view; bespoke tobacco mixes served in custom Desvall shisha pipes are a must-try vice.
Before 2010, foreign companies in Oman were subject to corporate taxes of up to 30%. Now, they are capped at 12% – the same as Oman’s domestic companies. There is also no individual income tax, consumption tax, or value-added tax. Even if you aren’t looking for a financial break, add Oman to your travel plans this year, and head to the 86-room resort Alila Jabal Akhdar. The Omani government funded the remote cliff-top property in the mountainous northern region, tapping the Singapore-based luxury hospitality brand Alila Hotels and Resorts to manage it. Expect earthy decor with warm wood and stone details, contemporary furnishings, hand-painted murals, and Arabic-inspired international fare served alfresco along the cliffs.
7. The Netherlands
According to Oxfam, the Netherlands offers international companies the greatest variety of options to avoid tax. Only a mailbox is needed to fund a company in the Dutch nation and incoming royalties are untaxed. If not for its financial incentives, visit this month for the country’s famous tulip festival. The 225-room Pulitzer Amsterdam, which reopened in August 2016 after a 16-month renovation, also features 2,000 of the brilliant perennials. Choose to stay in one of the hotel’s four Collector’s Suites, each aligned with a distinct passion: music, art, or historical antiques. Every suite boasts a private street entrance and exceptional views of the city’s canals.
Hundreds of years ago, Mauritius was a monetary superstar because of its key position on the maritime spice route. Today, the island nation located between Africa and Asia continues to be an international financial centre for cross-border finance and investment. Its corporate tax rate is low, there is no capital-gains tax, and residents can benefit from various tax exemptions due to double-tax treaties. To visit, stay at the St. Regis Mauritius Resort which, nestled at the foot of Le Morne Brabant Mountain (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), features a colonial-style manor house and private beachfront estates overlooking the Indian Ocean. Easy access to a nearby lagoon offers plenty of active diversions, from kite surfing paradise to diving and snorkelling.
Singapore has come a long way since its separation from Malaysia in 1965. The tiny island is currently one of the richest countries in the world, as well as an epicentre of international business. Singapore’s financial secrecy laws are also tighter than most, making it an ideal tax haven. While in town for business (or pleasure), stay at the famous Raffles Hotel, which dates to 1887 and was declared a National Monument in 1987. There you’ll walk in the footsteps of such famous former guests as Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and James Michener.
Like some of the other tax havens in this list, the personal income tax rate in the Bahamas is zero, and the island-nation has no capital gains tax, no withholding tax, and numerous other tax benefits. It also shares a time zone with New York, making it an ideal getaway from which to conduct business. Stay at the island’s newest luxury resort, Eleven Experience’s Bahama House for an active tax-day holiday filled with bone fishing, deep-sea fishing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, and snorkelling. The 11-suite estate, a renovated retreat that dates to 1800, is also available as a buyout for up to 22 guests.